On Friday, the new Special Elections Advisory Committee announced via email the College Council (CC) presidential candidates for the year’s second election following annulment. Jesús Espinoza ’16 and Marcus Christian II ’16 are campaigning as co-presidential candidates, while former co-presidents-elect Teddy Cohan ’16 and Meghana Vunnamadala ’16 have split for this election, with Cohan running as a single ticket and Vunnamadala running with Jochebed Bogunjoko ’16. An additional ticket originally consisted of Brian Trelegan ’16 and Roger Vargas ’16, but an email from the Committee on Monday announced the pair’s withdrawal from the race.
Bogunjoko explained that she had originally hoped to team up with Vunnamadala in the first election, but Vunnamadala was already running with Cohan.
“When I realized this, I decided to put my efforts behind campaigning for [Vunnamadala] because I believed in the work she wanted to do and in her ability to be an outstanding CC President,” she said. “My confidence in her has only increased, especially after she immediately recognized her mistake and was in favor of annulment as the only fair option to the student body.”
Vunnamadala felt that Bogunjoko would make a strong running partner given the pair’s past experience working together in CC and shared interest in shaping campus community.
“During and after the annulment process, I realized that Teddy and I, together, would not be able to adequately represent the wants and needs of the student body in a palatable way. Upon mutual agreement we decided to split up,” she said.
The former co-presidents-elect’s split did not deter Cohan from running again either.
“I am running for CC president to show the important role learning and action need to play in our community: that just because you make a mistake, it does not mean you should disappear from the community and not be heard from again, but that we should strive to learn from our mistakes and move forward by thinking of ways to improve this community,” he said. “Running as a single ticket was an intentional choice, in that sense, since I felt like it was important to show that a single person can stand up for what he or she believes in,” he said.
Until recently, Espinoza was satisfied affecting campus change through his former position as Vice President of Community and Diversity.
“After the recent photo and election scandal, I intended on keeping my VP position in order to be an effective responder to future breaches in community standards,” he said. “Yet, friends, acquaintances and strangers encouraged me to run. After contemplating the idea, I came to the decision to run in order to work towards broader community changes.”
Christian explained that he regretted not running in the initial election, especially because recent campus events had inspired him to make his voice heard on campus. His original hesitation stemmed partly from a sense of disconnect from CC.
“I felt that because I did not take on a role in CC early on in my time here at [the College], I would not have a chance to break into it at any point later on,” he said. “Once the election scandals began, I told myself that I would place my name into the running if I got another opportunity … and here we are today.”
Both Cohan and the team of Espinoza and Christian noted disillusionment as one of the biggest issues on campus.
Cohan reiterated that voicelessness remains a pressing concern at the College, and he hopes to remedy it by emphasizing face-to-face dialogue, increasing the diversity requirement to include a mandatory class on power structures and social justice and implementing more community and diversity events during First Days.
“I think that my platform speaks to the importance I place in addressing the mariachi costume photo so that this does not happen again,” he said, addressing the photo that surfaced of Cohan and another student dressed in a mariachi costume for Halloween, an image that has offended many students. “Through encouraging face-to-face interaction, we will be able to recognize how much we can learn from one another. If I lose, I will continue to advocate for what I believe in and will share my learning process with others, including a new generation of students next year, whom I believe would benefit from listening to my story upon entering the college to prevent these types of actions from occurring again and so that we can begin the process of improving our community. I don’t believe this incident is what defines me. What I believe defines me is my dedication to improving this community.”
Espinoza and Christian noted that students have lost trust in the College’s institutions, leading to hopelessness and apathy.
“In order to bring back pride and inclusiveness to the community, we hope to make sure that CC better reflects what the student body cares about the most,” they said. They felt their combined experiences – Espinoza’s as VP for Community and Diversity and Christian’s as a current Junior Advisor and Director of Recruiting at Brayton Tutoring – will aid them in assessing and addressing the student body’s central concerns.
Bogunjoko and Vunnamdala believe mental health to be the biggest issue on campus.
“It plays a role in almost every other issue we see on campus, whether that’s sexual assault, depression, stress, an inability to engage in face-to-face campus wide dialogue, etc.,” they said. Bogunjoko especially hopes to enhance sexual assault services, perhaps by creating “a network of students who have gone through the school’s investigative process for sexual assault and are willing to speak with students who are apprehensive about the process.” The team would also like to add more discussion of mental health and self-care to First Days, as well as strengthen ties between CC and the Williams Environmental Council to increase the student body’s dedication to environmental reform.
Polls open through email today at 4 p.m. and close on Friday at 8 p.m.